Johanna Beckett is the mother of Kate Beckett, one of the main characters in the television series Castle, which is now in season six. Johanna was murdered several years before the beginning of the series, so she has never actually been seen alive during the show. Despite that, her influence has still been felt. Things about Johanna and her murder have slowly been shared, a little at a time, over the course of the series. It has been an important part of the show without being the main focus. I have liked how the story has been told slowly, over six years and I think it was handled well.
Some of what I discuss will be spoilers for people who haven’t been watching Castle - or are just a few episodes behind - including the episode Veritas that aired on May 5, 2014. Read at your own risk.
The murder of her mother has really shaped who Kate is. She was in college, planning to become a lawyer, when her mother was stabbed. It was ruled a random act, and the case was never solved. Kate changed her career focus, eventually becoming a homicide detective for the New York police force. She has given many others the answers and closure she didn’t get. Kate tried to solve her mother’s murder, but was unable to. She finally moved on, deciding she couldn’t find the killer after trying to almost consumed her. She found a way to deal with her mother’s killer never being caught. Then Richard Castle came into her life.
Shortly after Rick started to shadow Kate, she told him about her mother’s murder. She also told him not to poke around in the case and that she would be through with him if he did. Rick went along with that for a while, but he ended up digging into Johanna’s murder. He brought in one of his contacts in, and they uncovered something new. Kate was furious when Rick told her, and their developing friendship and work relationship seemed to be over. That is how the first season ended. By the end of the first episode of season two, Kate accepts Rick’s apology and the two got back to working together.
From that point on, new things tied to Johanna’s murder pop up from time to time. Kate is blind sided when she is told that a victim in a new murder investigation was killed by the same person who killed Johanna. Kate, with Rick’s help, discovers the identity of the hit man who killed Johanna. Unfortunately, he takes Rick hostage, and Kate is forced to shoot him before finding out who hired him. Rick feels guilty for that and plans to leave, but Kate stops him. She wants to find and arrest the person responsible for her mother’s death, and she wants Rick there when it happens. That is a big change from when she told him to stay out of it.
The next potential break comes when John Raglan, the detective who investigated Johanna’s murder, contacts Kate, wanting to talk. Kate takes Rick to the meeting, but just when Raglan was going to say something, he is shot by a sniper. Kate, Rick, Ryan, and Esposito discover that Raglan and his partner Gary McCallister had been kidnaping members of the mob for ransom several years before Johanna’s murder. One of the kidnaping attempts went wrong, leaving an undercover FBI agent dead. The intended kidnaping target, Joe Pulgatti, was then framed for the murder. Seven years later, Johanna took up Pulgatti’s case, working to file an appeal. She was getting dangerously close to discovering the truth about the murder and who the dirty cops were when she was killed. When Kate talks to McCallister, he insists that someone else he refers to as the dragon hired the hitman that killed Johanna. He points the finger at drug lord Vulcan Simmons to try to hide his own involvement in what happened. While Vulcan was twisted and evil, he actually wasn’t involved in Johanna’s death.
By the final episode of the third season, the dragon seems to be trying to get rid of loose ends, including anyone connected to Johanna’s murder. McCallister, who has been in jail, is killed by the same man who killed Raglan. The killer then is sent after Kate, who is more determined than ever to track down who is responsible for her mom’s death. It turns out that a third cop had been involved in the mob kidnaping ring and that someone else more powerful learned about it - the dragon. Instead of turning in the cops, the dragon took the money from the ransoms. I was shocked when it came out that the third cop was Roy Montgomery, the captain of the 12th precinct and Kate’s supervisor. Roy was just a rookie when all of that happened, and he then focused on trying to make up for what had happened. He had evidence that he had been using for years to keep Kate safe from the dragon. He sent the evidence to a friend, Michael Smith, before making a stand, giving up his life to protect Kate. Unfortunately that didn’t stop the dragon from having Kate shot.
During the first episode of season four, Smith contacts Rick, explaining that there is information that can keep Kate safe, but only if she stops pushing to solve her mother’s murder. Rick reluctantly agrees to get her to back off. Things went back to mostly normal between Rick and Kate, though each of them were keeping things from the other. In the final episode of that season, another murder puts Kate back on the trail of Cole Maddox, the man who shot her. Rick tries to get her to back off again after being contacted by Smith, but she is determined to get Maddox even though she is in grave danger. Rick decides to end things when she won’t stop. She is almost killed again, but that makes Kate realize her feelings for Rick and she acts on them by the end of the episode.
Season five picks up with Rick and Kate being happily together, though worried for Kate’s safety. They decide to act and they find Smith after he has been beaten by Maddox for the file. Maddox is killed in his attempt to get the last remaining copy, the file seems to be destroyed as well and Smith dies in the hospital. Ryan shows up with all the little bits that are left of the file and he, Esposito, Rick, and Kate try to piece together enough to figure out who the dragon is. They are successful and figure out that the dragon is senator William Bracken who just happens to be in New York. Bracken used the money from the mob kidnapings to fund his first political campaign. Kate goes and confronts him, bluffing through the meeting, making him believe that she has a copy of the file that will go public if she or anyone she cares about is hurt. They come to an uneasy truce, though Kate tells the others that she will still get justice for her mother.
Kate and Bracken meet again later in season five when he is back in New York for a political event and is linked to a murder. At first, Kate sees him as a suspect, but she learns that someone has threatened him instead. Kate is forced to work to protect him and even save his life, causing Bracken to say that he owes her a debt. Nothing else happens until later in season six when Kate encounters Vulcan Simmons again and is almost killed on his orders. A female hired killer saves Kate, saying only that Lazarus didn’t want her dead. That makes Kate believe that Bracken is Lazarus. The believe is enforced when Kate learns that Vulcan has ties to a group that is funneling money into political campaigns. Kate is more convinced when she sees Bracken announcing that he has formed a committee to explore running for president. She remains focused on trying to find some kind of evidence to take Bracken down without letting him know what she is up to.
Kate and Rick spend six weeks on what they call their project, following Jason Marks, someone they believe will lead to evidence that will take down Bracken. Marks turns up as a murder victim, soon followed by Vulcan. When evidence points to Kate, it is clear that she is being set up for Vulcan’s murder, so she and Rick plan to go on the run. Smith turns up alive, talking about a tape there is supposed to be of Bracken admitting to having people murdered. Bracken shows up, along with two goons, and talks about how he is responsible for all the good things in Kate’s life because he had her mother killed. Talk about having a screw loose. Anyway, Bracken claims he is too smart to kill Kate himself, so he leaves his goons behind to handle it, but they underestimate Kate. She takes them out even though she is drugged and injured.
While passed out, Kate remembers the first time she met Montgomery. That memory convinces her that her mother had the tape and hid it where Kate or her dad could find it. Kate and Rick go through Johanna’s things, only to be arrested by IA who has been after Kate since the evidence turned up linking her to Vulcan’s murder. At the precinct, Kate is feeling like she failed when she notices the elephants on her desk and something clicks. They had been Johanna’s originally. Kate manages to open some sort of compartment in them and out falls the tape. Captain Gates, who has been filled in by Ryan and Esposito, plays the tape with the IA cops listening. Bracken and Montgomery are on the tape. Not only does Bracken admit to having people killed in the past, he talks about having Johanna killed too if she doesn’t stop poking around. Kate is then able to go to Washington, D.C. and finally arrest Bracken.
At this point, I honestly don’t know if things with Bracken are completely done or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if he tried to pull something else. He did kind of have a look on his face that he was thinking this isn’t done yet. I think the story was handled wonderfully well and like how it seems to be resolved. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if Kate’s dad was shown at the end as well. There really isn’t a need for much else to happen with this particular story. I would be all right if something is mentioned briefly now and then, like an upcoming trial or that Bracken was sentenced. The murder of Johanna has been the longest running story of the series, apart from the story of Rick and Kate’s relationship, even though it wasn’t brought up all the time. If things hadn’t been handled well, the arrest of Bracken could have been anticlimactic or even a let down. Thankfully, that didn’t happen because the story was handled very well. It took fifteen years (and six seasons of the show), but there is finally justice for Johanna and the truth about Bracken is out.